The #1 Trick to Being a Better Hostess
By Franki Hanke
Hosting can be a lot. You’re inviting more people into your home, cooking more food, creating bedrooms out of multi-use spaces, and trying to keep everyone entertained while they are there! If you’re wondering how to host better, there’s one simple thought exercise: act like a guest.
By putting yourself in your guest’s shoes and interacting with your space, you can anticipate their needs ahead of time. The more you enact this exercise, the better the experience of staying with you will be. It’s a bit like anticipating guest’s needs at a fine bed and breakfast, just it’s your own house and you have insider info on all your guests!
Now, let’s practice this exercise in different scenarios.
Preparing Your Space for Hosting Guests
An overnight guest steps into your guest bedroom. Here are some rapid-fire prompts for your guest room:
Where will they put their suitcase?
Provide low furniture like a chaise lounge that luggage can be opened onto or invest in a luggage rack or two. Pre-open these before guests arrive or leave them folded but visible so guests can find them.
Where will they plug in their phone or other electronics?
I plug my phone charger in by the bed so I can use it before sleeping and then access my alarm in the morning. Most guests are similar. If you don’t have an outlet right beside the bed, create an easy way to do this.
Visitors aren’t familiar with your space like you are. They don’t remember where everything is and might not feel comfortable opening doors or drawers to find things. Invite them explicitly to open certain spaces verbally and/or with a note that stays in the room.
Consider leaving the most common items a guest might need out and visible though. Extra blankets and towels are best left out waiting for them. If you have space, add a blanket ladder in the room to keep many blankets out.
What would make this space more inviting?
I like to add fresh flowers to my guest bedroom for guests as a silent sign of “I prepared this room just for you!” but there’s a variety of ways to do this. You could write a note including your Wi-Fi password and any important details about the room.
Where can I hang…?
Rarely do people unpack for a brief visit, but if you’re planning a formal dinner or event with nicer clothing, guests may want to hang something to avoid wrinkles. Provide a section of a closet bar, hooks with hangers, or a free-standing rack. If you’re giving guests part of a larger closet to use, leave that door open as a silent invitation.
For Long-Term Guests
If guests plan to do laundry at your house, provide a laundry basket or hamper for their dirty items to land in until then. This one comes in neutral colors with a removable laundry bag for easy transport. This is useful for changing and washing linens too.
For more tips on how to have a hotel-style guest bedroom, read How to Impress with a Hotel-Style Guest Bedroom.
If you don’t have a dedicated guest bedroom or have more guests staying at once, then you’re creating a quasi-bedroom with an air mattress. Practice the same exercises with extra steps to mimic a bedroom.
Is there privacy here?
If this isn’t a closed room, consider how to create privacy for a guest. Use a room you don’t need access to during the event or an area that isn’t trafficked often.
Is it bright here?
If this isn’t a bedroom, you may not have blinds or curtains installed. Provide sleep masks to limit light pollution when sleeping.
Is it loud?
If you’re fitting a bed in an unusual spot, it might have more noise than normal. Consider supplying earplugs if it’s dramatic.
Make an Air Mattress More Comfortable
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Upgrade your air mattress to make it more comfortable.
Add a down-style mattress topper to cushion it.
Use Nice Bedding
Invest in a set of nice bedding for your air mattress. That can make it feel like you’re in a true bed! I love and own Brooklinen on my bed and guest bed. Pair their sheet set with a comforter. I always buy a King-sized comforter regardless of bed size. It feels more comfy and luxe. Include a large, soft blanket too for added warmth.
Mimic a Bedroom
Add a bedside table. Even if the air mattress is in a temporary spot, place a small table beside it to fill the same role of holding bedtime essentials.
Plan for Punctions
Air mattresses are not permanent furniture, and punctuation (especially if you have cats) is likely to happen at some point. Plan ahead with a patch kit on hand so your guest isn’t left in the lurch!
Guests are more skittish than you think! Even if it’s your best friend or child, they don’t want to admit they clogged a toilet or forgot their deodorant. Supply them with things they need in their bathroom (when possible). Don’t hide things so much that they can’t be found.
I recommend keeping the following essentials on hand:
- Plunger & Toilet Brush
- Extra Toilet Paper
- Butt Wipes
- Pump-Bottle of Lotion
- Two Bath Towels Per Guest (+Washcloths)
If you’d like to supply some of the commonly forgotten items, consider investing in a few bottles of things that can be shared and individuals of toiletries people frequently forget.
- Shampoo/Conditioner (Leave in Shower)
- Body Wash (Leave in Shower)
- Floss (Buy Individual Picks)
- Makeup Wipes or Remover
- Facial Wash
Choose scents and products that are useable for a range of preferences.
Where will they hang their towels?
The standard bathroom often has enough towel spots for two people to use the shower regularly, but if you’re sharing one bathroom with many guests, a single towel rod won’t suffice. Install extra hooks so each towel has a clear landing place to dry properly.
If you don’t often have many guests, buy a free-standing towel rack you can move in and out of storage as needed.
Keeping Guests Entertained
Hosting guests can throw off your routine as you try to match other people’s. Let your guests know what you usually do so they know what to expect. For example, at bedtime, tell folks when you usually wake up and when the first planned activity is (so they can plan their own wake-up and morning routine).
If you have early risers visiting, let them know ahead of time how to use the coffee machine and invite them to a specific activity that fits them.
- If you have a home gym, consider letting your active family member know they should use it. “I just invested in a bike! Please try it out!”
- Pick out a good walking route ahead of time and tell them about it. “You can walk a half mile to a great coffee shop from here,” or “The loop around the pond is lovely in the morning.”
- If they usually read the paper, buy some local options ahead of time. “I left a local guide for you by the bed,” or “The paper is delivered outside around 9.”
- If they eat earlier than you, plan prepared items they can self-serve. “I made muffins today and they’re in the microwave. Please help yourself in the morning,” or “I cut up some fresh fruit and left that in the fridge for you.”
By doing a little leg work ahead of time to anticipate what they might want in the morning you can stick to your routine more and take care of your house guests.
If you have an alarm system, remember to let guests know how to disable it if they leave the house before you’re awake.
Stocking your fridge and pantry ahead of guests can show you care and pay attention. Ahead of a visit ask: “Is there anything I should have on hand for you?” and “Do you have any allergies?”
Pick up their requests, and try to think of items they might want they didn’t ask for.
- What is their go-to drink? Whether it’s Dr. Pepper or bottles of water, having their favorite in the fridge already is a win.
- Do they have any strict food routines? Some folks have the same granola bar or yogurt every morning. If so, have those ready for them.
- What’s something they enjoyed last time? Whether it’s a local treat or not, re-buying something that impressed last time is a callback to your last enjoyable visit.
- Do their preferences differ from yours on staples? If you buy 2% milk, but they always buy oat or skim, buy theirs too so you’re ready for them.
Going Out to Eat
I like to brainstorm restaurants and local spots to take guests to before their here. It takes the pressure off of thinking quickly and lets me really marinate on who’d love which place.
- What are the best places nearby?
- What are your guests’ personal favorites?
- What’s new since the last visit?
Hosting your loved ones is a specific kind of love and care, and I hope this exercise helped you stop stressing and start thinking about how to really wow when you’re hosting guests next.
If you’re hosting for the Thanksgiving holiday, read more tips for running the big day flawlessly.
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